A Great Big World's Chad King on Freddie Mercury: 'Never Before Had I Heard That Kind of Flamboyant Fearlessness'

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Freddie Mercury in 1984.

June is a time to honor the LGBTQ community’s rich history and highlight its remarkable achievements. To celebrate Pride Month, Billboard asked modern music stars to pen essays about their favorite queer icons, and how their sounds, lyrics and overall images influenced a new era of artistry.

I remember the first time I heard Freddie Mercury. I was hanging out in a friend’s dorm room, smoking pot, trying to escape the feeling that people were suspicious of my sexuality. I was losing myself in the purple lava lamp when Queen's “Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy” came on.

That song. Those words. That voice.

Never before had I heard or felt that kind of flamboyant fearlessness, and unabashed honest artistry. It was as if every single piece of Freddie was in that performance. He embraced his identity, poured it into his art, and gave it life. He was unafraid to share his true self with the world. How beautiful. Instantly, Freddie became one of my biggest inspirations. 

A few years ago, I felt like I was channeling Freddie during what turned out to be a pivotal point in my career as a performer.

A little backstory - I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007 and while I’m managing it, every so often I’ll experience a new symptom or a flare up. During a spell in 2014, I had to pay particular attention to my balance. Once in a while, my legs would feel weak and I would feel like I needed to sit down. In November of that year we were performing at the VH1 You Oughta Know live concert. There was a long catwalk leading up to the stage that I so wanted to use, but I was so afraid I’d lose my balance and fall down and make a fool of myself on live television. We were performing a song that built up to a massive guitar solo that would be a perfect chance to bolt down the catwalk, and that moment was fast approaching. I had to make a decision: stay safe behind my microphone stand, or dive into the performance and conquer that catwalk.

What would Freddie do? How would he handle this situation? Freddie would own that stage. He would fearlessly amplify his identity, feel empowered, and give that stage EVERYTHING. And everyone would love it.

Right before the guitar solo, I found my inner Freddie and took off down that catwalk, hi-fiving the fans along the way. I felt so fearless, liberated, and proud. And from that moment on, I was no longer afraid to really pour my soul out onto the entire stage rather than staying in the safety zone of my mic stand. And I can thank Freddie for that. 

I am forever changed by Freddie’s genius. He has blessed us with his brilliance and left a mark on the world that I will forever admire.

A version of this article appeared in the June 17 issue of Billboard.

Gay Pride Month 2017